The human experience

With life expectancy possibly increasing, even a 100-year-old woman isn’t sure what she would do with another 10 years.

At 100 years old, there are only three things that Perky Stealy can’t do: change the lightbulbs in her home, cook like she used to, and plant flowers in her yard. But she never had a green thumb anyway, she says.

She lives alone off a quaint road next to her alma mater, Ball State University. On Mondays, she plays Bridge at 11 a.m. with the same group she has played with for years. Wednesday is a meeting with her women’s club she has been a member of since 2003. And Thursday, well, she just might skip Wheel of Fortune to meet up with a friend. Other days, she might drive her 2002 Buick Regal up to the grocery store, or the library for more books.

Her years on Earth are a blessing, Perky says, and one she thinks is a mixture of God, a good attitude, and the series of small exercises she does every morning: leg lifts and knee raises before she even leaves her bed.

And after the exercises, she calls her daughter in Pensacola, Florida, to tell her the same thing she does every morning—she’s made it through another night.

According to a United Nations report, there are now more than 900 million people in the world over the age of 60. The current oldest human alive is Violet Mosses Browne, at age 117. The oldest person to ever live in history (onrecord using a Western calendar’s measurement of time) was Jeanne Louise Calment, who lived to be 122 years old. That’s 22 whole years on Perky, and a whole lifetime on me. While that’s impressive, the real marvel is that humans are living to be older than originally thought possible—a trend some doctors believe will continue.

Today, Perky being 100 is not necessarily normal. But it’s also not that shocking.

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